To provide Information identifying the impact of the High Court Ruling on NELC's Policy of raising Revenue by Council Tax Court costs

Stan Higgleston (Account suspended) made this Freedom of Information request to North East Lincolnshire Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was refused by North East Lincolnshire Council.

Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

In the recent case reported by The Independent on 7 May 2015, R (Nicolson) v Tottenham Magistrates [2015] EWHC 1252 (Admin), where, it was held that :-

"...there must be a sufficient link between the costs in question and the process of obtaining the liability order. It would obviously be impermissible (for example) to include in the costs claimed any element referable to the costs of executing the order after it was obtained, or to the overall administration of council tax in the area concerned."

It is evident from the calculation(s) published on North East Lincolnshire Council's website that the impermissible costs referred to above make up the majority of the council tax court costs claimed.

Q1. Would North East Lincolnshire Council please provide all, if any, recorded information regarding the impact this case is having on its recovery through the Magistrates' court, particularly any steps taken or planned to revise the summons costs calculation.

Yours faithfully,

Stan Higgleston

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for information, which has been
allocated the reference number 0079_1516

Your request has been passed to the relevant department for processing and
you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will
take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you
of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

 

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PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

Further to your information request below which has been allocated
reference number 0079_1415 I can confirm that North East Lincolnshire
Council holds no recorded information in relation to your request.

 

I can however confirm that the summons cost calculation is reviewed
annually to ensure it accurately reflects any changes, either local or
national, which may impact on the calculation. I am also pleased to
confirm that in-line with best practice North East Lincolnshire Council
publishes the calculations online at the following address:

 

[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/resident/counc...

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which
elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal
review process.  If following this you are still dissatisfied you may
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request
an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary
arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

Resources Directorate

 

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Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

I would like your response clarifying in respect of the following statement:

"I can however confirm that the summons cost calculation is reviewed annually to ensure it accurately reflects any changes, either local or national, which may impact on the calculation."

Presumably what is meant by the above is that the High Court case referred to in my request, which has identified that the majority of costs claimed are impermissible, will not be taken into consideration until its next annual review?

If this is the case then NELC will knowingly be claiming unlawful sums for approximately another 9 months at least.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

Further to your correspondence below I refer you to the original response.

 

North East Lincolnshire  Council holds no recorded information in relation
to your request. To clarify, no recorded information is held regarding the
impact this case is having on North East Lincolnshire Council's recovery
through the Magistrates' court, particularly any steps taken or planned to
revise the summons costs calculation. Should there be any need to review
the calculation at any point, for any reason, then this would be
undertaken. The case in question does not impact on the published
calculation. Whilst you may disagree with this, there are appropriate
routes to challenge this if that is the case. A Freedom of Information
request is about the recorded information held by an organisation, please
can I ask that you refrain from making unfounded comment and other
statements within your requests. Further correspondence of this nature
will not be acknowledged or responded to.

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in 
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to 
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which 
elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are 
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal 
review process.  If following this you are still dissatisfied you may 
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to
request  an internal review, please contact me and I will make the
necessary  arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

Resources Directorate

 

 

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Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

It would be beneficial for the people relying on the likelihood that the residents most in need of bringing about civil proceedings in this matter are those who are least likely to have the financial means to do so, that there are other options which appear to be available if there are criminal implications.

The judgment defining dishonesty used in criminal prosecutions is the court of appeal case (R v Ghosh [1982] EWCA) from which a test to define dishonesty was developed requiring two stages. The first, an objective test, where a jury would be required to decide if an act was one that an ordinary decent person would consider to be dishonest and the second, a subjective test where a jury would need satisfying that the accused must have realised that what he was doing was, by those standards, dishonest. The second test (subjective) is not applied if objective test fails

The judgment of the Court that is material to the test is as follows:

"In determining whether the prosecution has proved that the defendant was acting dishonestly, a jury must first of all decide whether according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people what was done was dishonest. If it was not dishonest by those standards, that is the end of the matter and the prosecution fails.

If it was dishonest by those standards, then the jury must consider whether the defendant himself must have realised that what he was doing was by those standards dishonest. In most cases, where the actions are obviously dishonest by ordinary standards, there will be no doubt about it. It will be obvious that the defendant himself knew that he was acting dishonestly. It is dishonest for a defendant to act in a way which he knows ordinary people consider to be dishonest, even if he asserts or genuinely believes that he is morally justified in acting as he did."

Clearly a properly informed jury as to the facts of the case would have no difficulty establishing the objective test. Similarly, there can be no doubt that even if executive officers of the council held genuine beliefs that their actions were morally justified, they must realise that ordinary people would consider them to be dishonest.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

I'm aware that North East Lincolnshire Council's external auditor, KPMG, refused to endorse the calculation which has been referred to in a previous correspondence relating to this Freedom of Information request. Presumably because the firm would not want to leave itself open to legal challenge for knowingly supporting fraudulent accounts.

I'm aware that since the High Court judgment, the external auditor contracted to the local authority involved (Haringey Borough Council) has been ordered to declare whether it is satisfied that the council does actually incur the costs it claims in liability order applications.

With the change in the law, will North East Lincolnshire Council be instructing KPMG to declare whether it is satisfied that the council is operating within the law?

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

Enid Brighton (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

With relevance to KPMG's involvement, see around paragraphs 82 to 91:

(Auditor’s involvement)

http://www.scribd.com/doc/262649159/LGO-...

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

Thank you for your information request which has been allocated reference number 0378_1516. North East Lincolnshire Council holds no recorded information in relation to your request.

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal review process. If following this you are still dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary arrangements.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

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Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

Can you confirm that North East Lincolnshire Council is treating this as a new request (0378_1516).

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

I can confirm that this was treat as a new request and the response has been provided, which for clarity is that North East Lincolnshire Council holds no recorded information in relation to your request.

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal review process. If following this you are still dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary arrangements.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

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Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

"....North East Lincolnshire Council holds no recorded information in relation to your request."

Can you please define what you mean by "recorded information".

What I'm getting at is, that it might be if the authority wanted to get round disclosing certain information it would file all such documents in a folder labelled 'unofficial', for example.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

Thank you for your further enquiry in relation to information request reference 0378_1516. The definition of recorded information followed by North East Lincolnshire Council is that established by the Information Commissioner's Office. The links below are to information held by them and are provided for your convenience, the information is not held by North East Lincolnshire Council.

On the Information Commissioners website there is a page entitled "What is the Freedom of Information Act?" which includes information regarding what information is within scope under the Act, the principles of the Act and what is classed as recorded information. The specific section relevant to your enquiry is titled "When is information covered by the Freedom of Information Act?":

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui...

As you will note from this definition your comment in relation to how information may be filed has no bearing on whether it would be classed as recorded information held by North East Lincolnshire Council.

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which elements of the Council's response or handling of the request you are unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal review process. If following this you are still dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary arrangements.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

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Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

In light of the council now being aware that it has a legal duty to hold the requested information, and the information is not held, will the information likely to be held in the coming weeks?

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

I believe NELC sent three of its recovery staff on a course focussing on the consequences of the decision in the Tottenham Magistrates’ High Court case regarding court costs in liability order applications.

In light of the response to this request and the apparent 'couldn't care less' attitude regarding the fraudulent securing of court costs, will the council please confirm that the course offered by IRRV in fact revolved around advising local authorities how to exploit loopholes in order to continue profiting from enforcement, rather than ensuring it complied with the judgment.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

Thank you for your further query in relation to information request
reference 0378_1516. The previous responses have fully addressed the
requests made. Your latest request asking if the information is likely to
be held does not fall within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

As previously advised the Freedom of Information Act (2000) gives
individuals and organisations the right of access to all types of recorded
information held, at the time the request is received, by public
authorities such as North East Lincolnshire Council. Section 84 of the Act
states that in order for a request for information to be handled as a
Freedom of Information (FOI) request, it must be for recorded information.
For example, a Freedom of Information request would be for a copy of a
policy, rather than an explanation as to why we have that policy in place.
On occasion, North East Lincolnshire Council receives requests that do not
ask for recorded information, but ask more general questions about, for
example, a policy, opinion or a decision. In this instance I am satisfied
that your request falls outside of the scope of the Freedom of Information
Act as it is not a request for recorded information as it is asking for a
view on the likelihood of something happening. This is not recorded
information.

 

As we have made numerous attempts to address this request we will not be
responding to or acknowledging any further enquiries of a similar nature.
We consider that your requests demonstrate an unreasonably entrenched
position and demonstrate no willingness to engage with the authority.
Section 14 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act states that a public
authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if that
request is determined to be vexatious.

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which
elements of the Council's response or handling of the request you are
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal
review process. If following this you are still dissatisfied you may
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request
an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary
arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

Resources Directorate

 

 

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Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

In that case I would just like NELC to provide all information relating to the course attended by NELC employees dealing with the consequences of the decision in ‘Regina (Nicolson) v Tottenham Magistrates’ Court [2015] EWHC 1252 (Admin)’.

Please include details of the course content, handouts, notes taken etc. etc. and any material (reports for example) produced subsequent to course.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for information, which has been
allocated the reference number NEL/0519/1516.

Your request has been passed to the relevant department for processing and
you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will
take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you
of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

 

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PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

Thank you for your further enquiry in relation to information request reference 0378_1516.

Based on the content of your correspondence, we determine that this request is vexatious. Your correspondence is intended to raise unfounded allegations based on your own views and interpretations, with no intention to obtain information from North East Lincolnshire Council.

Section 14 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act states that a public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if that request is vexatious.

North East Lincolnshire Council will therefore not be responding to this request or other future requests of a similar nature.

For details of any courses run by the IRRV we suggest you contact them directly.

If you disagree with the Council determining your request is vexatious you have the right to request an internal review by the Council. If following this you remain dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary arrangements.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

Resources Directorate

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PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

Thank you for your further enquiry reference 0519_1516. I can confirm that
North East Lincolnshire Council holds a course hand-out which was given
out to attendees. We have determined that this information is exempt from
disclosure by virtue of section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act states that:

 

(1) Information is exempt information if it constitutes a trade secret.

 

(2) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act
would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any
person (including the public authority holding it).

 

(3) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that,
compliance with section 1 (1) (a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice
the interests mentioned in subsection (2).

 

North East Lincolnshire Council deem that section 43 (2) applies and that
disclosure of the information, would or would be likely to, prejudice the
commercial interests of the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation. 

 

Section 43 is a qualified exemption, and requires North East Lincolnshire
Council to consider the balance of public interest for the disclosure or
withholding of the requested information, before applying the exemption.
In assessing the public interest the following factors, were considered:

 

·The public interest in understanding the activities of North East
Lincolnshire Council, to inform their decision making, allow them to
challenge the decisions and actions of the council and participate in
debate;

·The public interest in ensuring North East Lincolnshire Council can be
held accountable for its decisions;

·The public interest in ensuring North East Lincolnshire Council are able
to effectively provide services and deliver outcomes for the community;

·The affect disclosure would have on the commercial interest of the third
parties in a competitive environment.

·The public interest in ensuring North East Lincolnshire Council are
providing value for money services.

 

As the information you have requested is provided to North East
Lincolnshire Council as part of a training package owned and delivered by
the IRRV, disclosure of this information would impact on their commercial
interests in a competitive environment and it is not in the public
interest to disclose this information. Any individual can approach the
IRRV if they have an interest in attending a course or obtaining any
information relating to courses run by the IRRV.

 

North East Lincolnshire Council therefore deem that the information
regarding  any material from the course is exempt from disclosure by
virtue of section 43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

I can confirm that North East Lincolnshire Council does not hold any other
information in relation to the course attended.

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which
elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal
review process.  If following this you are still dissatisfied you may
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request
an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary
arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

Resources Directorate

 

 

 

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Stan Higgleston (Account suspended)

Dear PPD - FOI,

I don't accept NELC's response, not least because myself and other council taxpayers have paid for the course. I also don't accept it for reasons that the council considers the information to be exempt because it constitutes a trade secret.

The wording of the council's response by its very nature implies that the information which it seeks to withhold, conveys a way of circumventing the recent High Court case ruling that should, in the interest of society as a whole, curb the level of unlawful summons costs which local authorities have been claiming for far to long.

In light of this please consider amending your response and disclose the information which the general public have paid for.

Yours sincerely,

Stan Higgleston

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your correspondence and wish to confirm that
an Internal Review of the handling of your Information Request
NEL/0519/1516 is to take place.

 

The Internal Review has been passed to the relevant department for
processing and you can expect your response within the 20 working day
limit. If it will take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you,
we will inform you of this and provide you with the expected date for
receiving a response.

 

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-co....

 

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

 

Feedback Officer

[2][North East Lincolnshire Council request email]

 

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PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Higgleston

 

Further to your request an Internal Review has taken place into North East
Lincolnshire Council's handling of your information request reference
0519_1516, concerning training received by officers of North East
Lincolnshire Council.

 

I have reviewed the response provided to you and the handling of your
request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and find:

 

·         That your request was responded to within the statutory time of
20 working days;

·         That you were informed whether or not the information you asked
for was held by North East Lincolnshire Council;

·         That you were provided with the reasons why any information you
had asked for could not be supplied to you under the Freedom of
Information Act; and

·         That your response provided you with your rights of appeal. 

 

I am therefore satisfied that the Council has acted in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act in the handling of your request.

 

In any circumstance where the Council pays for a service delivered by an
external company, in which they provide materials or information the
expectation is that this information will not be copied and distributed.
It is unreasonable to consider that the Council, merely because it is a
public body, has to release any training materials that come into its
possession. These training materials are developed as part of a commercial
business and North East Lincolnshire Council respects the fact that
investment has been put into their development.

 

The statement you have made that non-disclosure ”… implies that the
information which [NELC] seeks to withhold, conveys a way of circumventing
the recent High Court case ruling…” is vexatious in nature seeking to
raise unfounded allegations against the Council, the Institute of Revenues
Rating and Valuation and all other organisations which have attended the
training.

 

I trust that this Internal Review answers your queries in relation to your
request, and clarifies that your request has been handled in accordance
with the Freedom of Information Act.

 

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or
the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review
by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Ian Hollingsworth

 

Information Governance and Complaints

 

 

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